Man arrested for public indecency at playground

Police: Local resident accused of touching himself in car

A Columbus man has been arrested on a charge of public indecency three days after a suspicious car was seen at Whiteland Elementary School in Johnson County.

On Monday, a school employee told police the car was parked near the playground while children were playing at the school. She approached the vehicle and believed the man — later identified as James P. Snodgrass, 62, of Columbus — was touching himself, but he drove away, according to the police report.

The woman took photos of the man and his vehicle, including his license plate, the report said.

School staff was notified to be on alert and watch anyone around the school. The school also was put on a soft lockdown, where visitors and people around the school are all closely monitored, said John Venter, a school spokesman. School officials also sent a letter to parents about what had happened, he said.

The letter wasn’t sent to the entire school district immediately because police asked the school district not to release information while the investigation was ongoing, Venter said.

Police were able to track down Snodgrass from the vehicle description and license plate number, and left messages for him on the phone and at his Columbus home.

Snodgrass, who has a prior conviction for molestation, served nearly 20 years in prison and was listed on the sex offender registry until 2015.

He told police he had been doing well with controlling his exhibitionism but had been stressed recently — including with medical issues. He said he had been traveling through the area and stopped at the school, the report said.

Snodgrass told police he would never hurt anyone and would never return to the area, the report said.

A school employee noticed his phone when he was in the car, but Snodgrass told police he was not taking pictures of the children, the report said.

After his arrest, Snodgrass, of 3084 N. Stanley Lane, was taken to the Johnson County jail, where he was released on $1,200 bond.

Annie Goeller is a staff writer for The Daily Journal, a sister publication of The Republic.